I always try to give books as gifts, but sometimes it is fun to combine a book with a toy for the perfect package for a child. Here are a couple of book and toy combinations I’ve given recently that have been a big hit. We also own a lot of the toys, so we can attest to their awesomeness. Enjoy!
For the Music Lover
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes (Pete the Cat series) by Eric Litwin; illustrated by James Dean, 2010
(Ages 3 – 6)
Pete the Cat may be one of the most upbeat and positive characters in children’s literature. When he steps in blueberries and turns his brand new white shoes blue, does he cry? “Goodness no! He just keeps on walking along singing his song.” Pete continues to step in a multitude of things that change the color of his shoes, but he never lets it get him down. This is a great book to reinforce colors, cause and effect, and resilience. Best of all it has a catchy tune.
I paired this with a musical instrument set because what child doesn’t love to make some music? I also included movement scarves because you can do so many things with them. We love repeating rhymes we learned in story time, turning them into water for my son’s Legos, and dropping them from different heights. The ideas for these great toys are limitless.
For the Animal Lover
Old MacDonald’s Things That Go by Jane Clarke; illustrated by Migy Blanco, 2017
(Ages 2 – 6)
This is a fun spin on an old classic. Old MacDonald and his animals are as busy as ever as they explore the farm with an array of vehicles including a plane, bicycle, combine harvester, train, tractor, truck, and boat, etc. Detailed pictures feature a myriad of farm animals performing busy tasks, providing interesting things to look at during multiple readings. The book is a large size making it perfect to read out loud to a group or one-on-one. Both my five-year-old son and my two-year-old daughter loved this book and the large size made it easy for them both to cuddle together with me and admire the illustrations while we read it. My five-year-old easily memorized the song, and wanted to “read” the book to anyone who would listen. For a week straight he sang the book to my two-year-old daughter at bedtime.
Another great adaptation to this fun song is:
Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz; illustrated by Eda Kaban, 2016
Trucks, construction vehicles, girl power and a catchy tune… these are just a few of the things that make this children’s book a standout. This clever adaptation of the old folk song starts out with Old MacDonald and his wife driving onto the farm. The reader quickly discovers that in addition to farmyard animals, Old MacDonald also has a myriad of construction vehicles including excavators, cement mixers, bulldozers and a wife that is not only a talented mechanic, but also a monster truck driver. Pure fun!
We paired the above books with these wonderful animals from Learning Resources. Our children love creating their own farm scenes and making the noises of the animals.
For the Vehicle Lover
Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper, 2015
(Ages birth – 5)
There are tons of great books on vehicles out there, but I love this one for a number of reasons. It is a fun story that incorporates colors and a theme of collaboration. Plus it is now a picture book and a board book, so it is perfect for a variety of ages. The story focuses on a little green circle who only knows one word, “Go”. Nearby construction vehicles hear him and begin their work on a bridge. At first everything is going splendidly, until Little Green continues to say “Go! Go! Go!” and the vehicles begin going too fast and crash into each other. Luckily a little red circle rolls in shouting the only word he knows, “Stop!” The two circles were exact opposites and found it difficult to work together at first, but after a lot of patience and practice they found just the right amount of go and stop for the construction vehicles to complete the bridge they were working on. In a final spread of colorful cars and trucks, everyone celebrates the big accomplishment.
Mighty Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, 2017
(Ages 2 to 5)
Mighty Mighty Construction Site continues the story of five rough and tough construction vehicles first introduced in the New York Times best seller Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site. In this story, Crane Truck, Dump Truck, Cement Mixer, Bulldozer, and Excavator wake up to a beautiful new morning to face their biggest construction job yet. The job is so big in fact, they enlist help from five other construction vehicles including a skid steer loader, a flatbed, a pumper truck, a backhoe, and a front loader. They work together as one big “supercrew” to get the job done. After accomplishing their task, the trucks curl up to dream of future adventures.
There are a plethora of toy vehicles available for children, but my sister turned me on to Green Toys and they became my go- to-gifts for young children. They are made from 100% recycled plastic, they are easy to clean, durable, and are perfect for little hands to play with. There are also a large variety to choose from.
For the Superhero Lover
SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod, 2006
(Ages 3 – 6)
What better way to get kids excited about the alphabet than using super heroes to introduce them? Using each letter of the alphabet, a new super hero is presented with descriptions of his or her powers. The characters are diverse and the large illustrations are engaging. The Pre-Kindergarten students in my old school loved this book and checked it out often.
My sister is an amazing gift giver and gave my son these incredible capes and masks for his third birthday. He had so much fun with them that they became another one of my go-to-gifts paired with SuperHero ABC. Almost three years later, and these are still one of my son’s favorite things to play with and now his two-year-old sister gets in on the fun as well creating quite the dynamic duo.
For Aspiring Chefs
Pizza! An Interactive Recipe Book (Cook in a Book series) by Lotta Nieminen, 2017
(Ages 2 -5)
My children absolutely love the Pancake book in this series, so I thought it would be fun to get the Pizza version for our friends. The books in this series lay out the necessary steps to prepare food. Using clever sliders and spinners children can participate in each step. For example, they can pull a tab to watch flour fill a bowl and turn a spinner to mix the batter. This is a fun series for any child, but its interactive element can especially be a perfect draw for children who have not yet discovered their love of books. These books are fun, engaging, and a must-have for any little chef in training.
Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig, 1998
(Ages 2 – 6)
Pete’s parents cheer him up on a rainy day by pretending to make him into a pizza. This step by step guide is perfect for promoting pretend play among children. This book inspired my husband to make my two-year-old and five-year-old into pizzas and it is now one of their favorite games to play together. It is available in a picture book and board book format.
We combined these two great books with a really fun wooden pizza set from Hape. I love any toy that promotes pretend play and thought this would be a great gift that could also encourage counting, fractions, pattern making, or just plain fun!
For Little Builders
Build Dogs Build: a tall tail (series) by James Horvath, 2013
(Ages 3 – 6)
In this fun series, Duke the foreman leads a group of dogs as they perform important construction related duties such as laying a new road, erecting a building, and building a park. In this installment, the dogs and their pet cat are building a large skyscraper. There are lots of silly antics along the way making this a fun series for construction lovers. My son could not get enough of these books. We checked out all three books in the series multiple times. The bright colors, cartoony illustrations, and rhyming text makes this a fun read aloud.
Magnetic building blocks are one of the best toys we have ever purchased. They are so versatile and easy to use. Both my two-year-old and five-year-old love them. They are also pretty easy to transport making them the perfect toy for us when we travel cross country to visit family. We purchased
the Picasso brand because they are a little cheaper than the Magnatiles, but
we have played with both and love each one.
We are also huge fans of wooden blocks. Again, they are so dynamic and are perfect for young children to experiment and take risks building new things. My five-year-old has used them since the age of two. He started simply stacking towers to see how high he could make them before they fell and now he loves making fortresses for his Legos. They are a toy that can be used for many years in many different ways.
For the Science Lover
Charlotte the Scientist is Squished by Camille Andros; illustrated by Brianne Farley, 2017
(Ages 4 to 8)
Charlotte is a serious scientist who is ready to conduct experiments. The only problem is that she has no room to run her tests because she is constantly surrounded by her many brothers and sisters. Being a proper scientist, she uses the Scientific Method to solve her problem. She identifies her question of how to create more space, forms her hypotheses, conducts her experiment, makes her observation, and reaches a conclusion. Charlotte’s first few experiments fail, but Charlotte’s persistence pays off as she finds solidarity after traveling to the moon. While she finds the space she needs, she also becomes lonely, so she revisits her initial hypothesis and creates her own lab out of her spaceship back on Earth. After a lot of hard work, Charlotte finally concludes that she can have the room she needs while still being close to her large family. Children will love this charming story and budding scientists will enjoy the last few pages that review the simplified version of the scientific method. Charlotte is an inspirational character who demonstrates creativity and persistence. My five-year-old son absolutely loves this charming story and there is no doubt that it will be popular among children, parents, and teachers alike. This is one of our favorite books of 2017!
My five-year-old is super into science at the moment, so this Christmas we got him this Magic Science Kit that was recommended by another friend. We can’t wait to see what he “whips” up! We also purchased this beginner microscope to allow him to take a closer look at the world.
Another terrific book focusing on science is:
Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts, 2016
(Ages 5 – 8)
This was one of our favorite books of 2016. The rhyming text tells the story of Ada Twist, a curious little girl who asks questions and creates science experiments to better understand how the world around her works. This is a great story of perseverance and will surely serve as inspiration to other budding scientists.
And now there is an Ada Twist Scientist Doll! What a perfect gift to share with the book!